Ottawa is Canada’s capital, in the east of southern Ontario, near the city of Montréal and the U.S. border. Sitting on the Ottawa River, it has at its centre Parliament Hill, with grand Victorian architecture and museums such as the National Gallery of Canada, with noted collections of indigenous and other Canadian art. The park-lined Rideau Canal is filled with boats in summer and ice-skaters in winter.
The city largest employer is the federal government. As the official languages of Canada are English and French a large percent of the 1.2 million population is bilingual.
Ottawa is the most educated city in Canada and is home to a number of post-secondary, research, and cultural institutions, including the National Arts Centre, the National Gallery, and numerous national museums. Ottawa has the highest standard of living in the nation and low unemployment. It ranked 2nd nationally, 24th worldwide in the quality of life index and is consistently rated the best place to live in Canada.
Ottawa sits at the confluence of three major rivers: the Ottawa River, the Gatineau River and the Rideau River. The Ottawa and Gatineau rivers were historically important in the logging and lumber industries and the Rideau as part of the Rideau Canal system for military, commercial and, subsequently, recreational purposes. The Rideau Canal (Rideau Waterway) first opened in 1832 and is 202 km long. It connects the Saint Lawrence River on Lake Ontario at Kingston to the Ottawa River near Parliament Hill. It was able to bypass the unnavigable sections of the Cataraqui and Rideau rivers and various small lakes along the waterway due to flooding techniques and the construction of 47 water transport locks.The Rideau River got its name from early French explorers who thought that the waterfalls located at the point where the Rideau River empties into the Ottawa River resembled a ‘curtain’. Hence they began naming the falls and river ‘rideau’ which is the French equivalent of the English word for curtain. During part of the winter season the Ottawa section of the canal forms the world’s largest skating rink, thereby providing both a recreational venue and a 7.8 kilometres (4.8 mi) transportation path to downtown for ice skaters (from Carleton University and Dow’s Lake to the Rideau Centre and National Arts Centre).
Members of visible minority groups (non-white/European) constitute 23.7%, while those of Aboriginal origin make up 2.1% of the total population. The largest visible minority groups are: Black Canadians: 5.7%, Chinese Canadians: 4.0%, South Asians: 3.9%, and Arabs: 3.7%. Smaller groups include Latin Americans, Southeast Asians, Filipinos, and West Asians.
Around 65% of Ottawa residents describe themselves as Christian as of 2011, with Catholics accounting for 38.5% of the population and members of Protestant churches 25%. Non-Christian religions are also very well established in Ottawa, the largest being Islam (6.7%), Hinduism (1.4%), Buddhism (1.3%), and Judaism (1.2%). Those with no religious affiliation represent 22.8%.
Bilingualism became official policy for the conduct of municipal business in 2002, and 37% of the population can speak both languages as of 2006, making it the largest city in Canada with both English and French as co-official languages. Those who identify their mother tongue as English constitute 62.4 percent, while those with French as their mother tongue make up 14.2 percent of the population. In terms of respondents’ knowledge of one or both official languages, 59.9 percent and 1.5 percent of the population have knowledge of English only and French only, respectively; while 37.2 percent have knowledge of both official languages. The overall Ottawa–Gatineau census metropolitan area (CMA) has a larger proportion of French speakers than Ottawa itself, since Gatineau is overwhelmingly French speaking. An additional 20.4 percent of the population list languages other than English and French as their mother tongue. These include Arabic (3.2%), Chinese (3.0%), Spanish (1.2%), Italian (1.1%), and many others.
Ottawa’s primary employers are the Public Service of Canada and the high-tech industry. The latter (“tech sector”) was doing particularly well in 2015/2016. The national headquarters for many federal departments are located in Ottawa. The city has a high standard of living and low unemployment. Mercer ranks Ottawa with the third highest quality of living of any large city in the Americas, and 16th highest in the world. It is also rated the second cleanest city in Canada, and third cleanest city in the world. In 2012, the city was ranked for the third consecutive year as the best community in Canada to live in by MoneySense.
Ottawa had the fourth highest GDP growth rate among major Canadian cities in 2007 at 2.7%, which exceeded the Canadian average of 2.4%. It is estimated that the National Capital Region attracts around 7.3 million tourists annually who spend about 1.18 billion dollars.
The region of Ottawa-Gatineau has the third highest income of all major Canadian cities. The average gross income in the region amounted to $40,078, an increase of 4.9% compared to the previous year. The annual cost of living rate in 2007 grew 1.9%.
Another major employer is the health sector, which employs over 18,000 people. Four active general hospitals are in the Ottawa area: Queensway-Carleton Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital, Montfort Hospital, and Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Several specialized hospital facilities are also present, such as the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. Nordion, i-Stat and the National Research Council of Canada and OHRI are part of the growing life science sector. Business, finance, administration, and sales and service rank high among types of occupations. Approximately ten percent of Ottawa’s GDP is derived from finance, insurance and real estate whereas employment in goods-producing industries is only half the national average. The City of Ottawa is the second largest employer with over 15,000 employees.
The National Defence Headquarters located in Ottawa is the main command centre for the Canadian Armed Forces and hosts the Department of National Defence.The Ottawa area includes CFS Leitrim, CFB Uplands, and the former CFB Rockcliffe. During the summer, the city hosts the Ceremonial Guard, which performs functions such as the Changing the Guard.
In 2006, Ottawa experienced an increase of 40,000 jobs over 2001 with a five-year average growth that was relative slower than in the late 1990s. While the number of employees in the federal government stagnated, the high-technology industry grew by 2.4%. The overall growth of jobs in Ottawa-Gatineau was 1.3% compared to the previous year, down to sixth place among Canada’s largest cities.
The unemployment rate in Ottawa-Gatineau was 5.2% (only in Ottawa: 5.1%), which was below the national average of 6.0%. The economic downturn resulted in an increase in the unemployment rate between April 2008 and April 2009 from 4.7 to 6.3%. In the province, however, this rate increased over the same period from 6.4 to 9.1%.~